We must not exaggerate the dangers of cycling

Jeremy Vine's article only reinforced a sense of conflict, and didn't include safety facts

Share
Related Topics

I hesitate to wade into a debate about cycling because few debates have the potential to be as tiresome or polluted with counter-productive hot air, but I think it’s worth responding to Jeremy Vine’s article today in the Daily Mail.

First, we should note that writers don’t write headlines or have a say about the layout of a page in print. Our words can also be edited.

The headline on page 15 of the Mail today: Why do so many drivers want to KILL ME! (“KILL ME” is produced in a huge typeface).

Below this, Vine writes about cycling in London over the past two years, recently while wearing a helmet-cam to record incidents or near misses. Judging by his words, it’s a wonder he’s still alive and in possession of four limbs.

For example: 

-“Every morning when I leave the house, my wife says farewell in the manner of Japanese women who waved off pilot husbands in World War II.

-“If nothing else, cycling in a major British city reminds you to make a will and tell your mum you love her.

-“In the morning, I dress like a U.S. Navy Seal on his way to shoot Bin Laden. I am kitted out like a soldier and sometimes behave like one because London’s roads are a battlefield and my life is at stake.

-“I feel like I have become involved in a war that puts my life at risk every time I strap on my helmet.”

Putting to one side the mixed military metaphor, and the temptation of any writer to exaggerate, I wonder what Vine wanted to achieve here. I think that a prominent cyclist with recourse to a full page in a national newspaper ought to set out to make cycling safer and more pleasant. Perhaps Vine hopes to do this by shocking all road users. Instead, I fear, he only reinforces an exaggerated sense of conflict and danger.

Vine could have included a few safety stats, which reveal how safe cycling is. When I suggested this to him on Twitter this morning, he replied: “There is only one safety stat: in two years cycling I have been in one collision, emerged unhurt.” Why not include that in the article?

This isn’t a huge deal and we shouldn’t be surprised that newspapers like publishing controversial articles. But that’s the problem, because little things like this reinforce misleading impressions about roads. In more than six years of very regular cycling in and out of London, I have never been hit by a vehicle nor suffered any injury more serious than a strained shoulder.  I can count the number of genuine near misses I’ve experienced in that time on one hand. I think I’ve had more as a pedestrian.

This isn’t to tempt fate or big myself up, or to question Vine’s experience or right to write about it, but I do think that to paint the picture he has today without the required balance risks fuelling conflict, making the roads less safe for himself and everyone else. Worst, perhaps, he risks putting off any would-be cyclist who might read his words about the horror of it all. Which would be a shame. 

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon and her former boss Alex Salmond  

I voted Yes in the referendum – but that doesn't mean I'm going to vote for the Tory-esque SNP

Alasdair Clark
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd shrink the gap between the highest and lowest paid

Marina Warner
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power